Buddha was born in Lumpini forest in Nepal around 566 BC and died at the age of 80 years. He proposed what is known as the Middle Way – between extreme asceticism and a life of worldly pleasure.

He renounced worldly ties soon after his wife gave birth to their son Rahul. According to the texts he got enlightenment under a bodhi tree at Gaya in Bihar. Buddhism then spread within India southwards and on to Sri Lanka.

Around the 1st or 2nd century, 500 or 600 years after his death, the first images in human form appeared in India. Rules soon developed governing his physical appearance, clothes, posture and gestures.

There are 4 postures: sitting, standing, walking and reclining.

Buddha usually sits in a yoga position. His left hand is on his lap, palm up. The right hand rests on his knee. The posture is known as “calling the goddess Earth to witness”. Buddha resists Mara, the god of temptation, who offers him riches and tries to turn him away from Enlightenment.

After achieving Enligtenment Buddha searched out 5 ascetics he had previously stayed with for 6 years. He gave first sermon to them in the deer park at Sarnath in eastern India.

He explains the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which comprise the basic doctrines of Buddhism.

Both hands are brought together in front of the chest, each hand held in the ame position, 3 fingers bent slightly upwards, the thumb and forefinger touching, the fingers of the left hand resting against the palm of the right hand. The gesture is called “setting the wheel of the law in motion”

The top of his head is often like a royal turban. Originally it may have been a tuft of hair, but came to be represented as a fleshy protuberance or like hair tied up in a bun. It signifies enlightenment.

Buddha was a prince and wore heavy earrings. The weight changed the shape of his ears. When he renounced the world and became an ascetic, he discarded the earrings, but too late. His ears were already long.

If there is a flame on top of the head it derives from Sri Lankan images.

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